The online community of knife collectors, A Knife Family Forged in Steel
Painting of Ed Imperatore by Bruce R. T. Hakli
Who hasn't dreamed of being able throw a perfect bulls eye at a target with a fixed blade knife from thirty feet away? Or even being able to do that from twenty, or ten, or even six feet away? And how about dreaming of being able to stick it in the target every time? Let's up the ante on that dream, how about sticking it every time five hundred times in a row? Wait, I'm not done dreaming yet, how about then switching to an axe or a tomahawk and doing it again and sticking it in that target from every distance another five hundred times in a row! OK, now for giggles and not just a little showing off, let's dream that we can perform the same with just about anything that is longer than it is wide, for example a playing card or how about a garden rake? Yep, in that perfect dream everything I throw sticks smack dab in the middle of that target every single time no matter how I throw it or whatever it may be.
If you're a man of a certain age you might dream that you were Davy Crockett or Jim Bowie, real frontiersmen nailing a raccoon for your cap (Crockett) with the knife you designed (Bowie), or even Tonto from the Lone Ranger with his knife and tomahawk.
Or you might dream that you were James Coburn in that famous scene from "The Magnificent Seven":
Now a much younger person might dream of being a black clad Ninja scaling the walls of an enemy's palace and throwing knives, axes, and shuriken at the defenders, but I had to ask my daughter about that fantasy. Now since this is but a dream, let's say I'm wearing Mountain Man Pioneer style clothing like the early settlers, trappers, and explorers of this land and that my throwing skills have saved my life in defense against attackers, be they man or beast, as well as netted me the wild game needed for my sustenance, that should complete the picture.
In life some of us are dreamers and some of us are doers, and while I'm sitting here day dreaming, the next iKC member I will introduce to you is a man of accomplishments, definitely a man of action! You know the old line, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?", and the answer is "Practice!" The only way you get yourself an honored place in the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame, in Austin, Texas is by years and years of practice, competition, and dedication to the art. That's just what our friend Ed Imperatore of Port Republic, New Jersey managed to do back in 2008!
You know, what I liked right off the bat about Ed is his generosity of spirit. Though we had never met or corresponded he invited my daughter and I down to South New Jersey for some free knife throwing lessons and some fun, after I had mentioned in my first member spotlight here that that's a family activity my daughter and I share. Ed has raised seven daughters who are grown up now, and he taught all of them to throw, as well as many other people of all ages. "I teach for the love of the art", Ed says, and that love and dedication to teaching is what earned him his spot in the Hall of Fame.
Now Ed is not only an inductee in the IKTHoF, but also a board member and the #2 in charge, and he promotes this art by hosting, every year since 1999, the IKTHoF North East United States National Championship, being held this year in NJ on Father's Day weekend June 18th and 19th. My daughter and I are going, because we want to see Ed in action! You should all definitely consider attending, if you're not too far, and bringing your kids as well!
The following is what Ed had to say during an interview conducted online about his collecting knives, about professional knife throwing and competition, about Mountain Man competitions, the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame, and of his day to day life. I want to thank Ed for generously participating in the iKC Member Spotlight and take great comfort in knowing that if any of us ever get really serious about throwing knives in competition, then we will have the pleasure of meeting Ed in person!
Q: Ed, where do you live?
A: My wife and I run an RV Park/Campground in Port Republic and it's in the Pinelands of Southern New Jersey. We are in between a cedar swamp and the marshlands of the Great Bay. We are close to Leed's Point (where the Jersey Devil is from), and Wharton State Park which has over 115,000 square miles of wilderness and at least 5-700 miles of trails for camping, hunting, and Jeeping. Port Republic just hit 1,000 citizens last year, we are a dry town (no alcohol sold or served), no red or blinking lights, and no Police/Ambulance services. We have lots of lakes, The Nacote' Creek River cuts us in half, the rest is ticks, deer, and road kill. We were settled in approx. 1637, but not legalized until 1905 by charter.
Q: How would you describe a typical day in your life?
A: Up early 6-6:30am, coffee & news for breakfast, feed and walk or let out the dog. If we are open for the season I'm at work by 8am until about 3pm. If we're closed I'm usually working on a knife or knife display project or just messing around in my garage. Lots of reading all types of books & magazines. If weather permits I'm outside throwing knives & hawks for at least a few hours. I try to do 500-1000 throws a day of each plus a bit of mountain man type throwing.
Q: Do you share your knife collecting hobby with your family and friends close to home, or is it your own private and personal pursuit?
A: Most of my family agree I'm insane and most of my "knife" friends are online and we only see each other during tournaments when we get to show off together. And I share on FB and IKC. Before the internet it was a lonely hobby. Now there are hundreds of people I've met online and face to face from all over the world.
Q: When did you become a "serious" collector?
A: I guess around 1999 it became an obsession, but I've always collected something. I own thousands of comics still and more books than a library. I really and truly think it's a damned disease like gambling. From comics as a kid to paperbacks, to knives it has always been a passion of mine. I am what is called a completist. I can't buy a knife from Buck without trying to own a 100% complete set of Buck Knives. Since my kids are grown I have more disposable income to be used for pricier knives.
Q: What knives do you dream of owning one day?
A: A complete collection of all McEvoy knives made by Harry McEvoy.
Q: About how many knives do you now own, if you'd care to say, and about how many of those do you actually use?
A: Ummmm. I've no idea. 4-500 or so? Most of my bowies & MM (Mountain Man) blades are on my office wall and many hundreds more are packed away for lack of space. I use almost all the throwers in the course of year in practice or teaching. I sometimes give them away and never sell unless I make them for selling. I've thrown every single knife & hawk I own with the exception of signed items from makers or throwers, and I've thrown 1 or 2 of those as well. :) I do own a few Tom Daugherty, Dan Dennehey, and Bob Karp knives that will never be thrown since in my opinion they are priceless. Custom made, my favorite is Bill Page, he's a friend and I've bought lots of his blades. His leather craft is also becoming top of the line.
Q: What types of knives do you collect?
A: Throwers in general I guess, but I soon gravitated to bowies and larger knives. Bowie Knives are my true passion. Size does matter! Size- if a throwing knife isn't 12 inches at least it isn't one. L6 Carbon (mostly huge saw blades) for throwers. You can't destroy the things! And high quality Stainless for show pieces simply for the ease of caring for them. I do have many knives that are not throwers such as switchblades and the like. I don't throw them since they can't take the beating.
Q: Do you consider yourself a focused collector or a broad range collector?
A: Fairly focused, but the odd blade will sometimes catch my eye.
Q: What are the qualities you look for in a knife that you would add to your collection?
A: Durability, full tang on a non-folder, and function. I stay away from knives that I can't verify for authenticity like most so called "theater" knives from various wars. I love bone and antler material, but I'll never understand how something that purty can stink so damned much!
Q: As collectors, we all have our favorite stories about how we came to acquire a particular piece, what’s one of your favorites?
A: I was at a MM event in Malakof, TX and had been looking for a Gene Highe tomahawk for years. I saw a guy laying about 10 of them on a blanket which he was trading or selling them. I freaked and asked him where in the heck he found so many since I never could find one. He laughed like crazy and said, "Let me introduce myself. My name is Gene Highe." He found my embarrassment so funny he sold me one for half price and gave me an extra handle.
Q: When your knives go into a sheath is it leather or kydex?
A: Leather. Everything else is not leather.
Q: How do you take care of and maintain your knives?
A: I use oil a lot and I'm beginning to use a clear coat spray for my throwers that don't have leather handles.
Q: Do you think you will ever stop collecting knives?
A: If I can time it right I'll make my last purchase 10 minutes after I'm dead.
Q: Do you have an ultimate goal for your collection?
A: Lining my casket with them so you guys aint gittin em!! LoL
KNIFE THROWING AND COMPETITION
Q: Which throwing knives are you currently using most?
A: Right now I throw Cold Steel Pro Flight Knives & Cold Steel Norse Hawks. For MM I throw a self-made 16” bowie and a Gene Highe hawk with a hand carved handle made by me. I pride myself on being able to pick up anything and stick it on the 1st try with a 1 spin. By the way I mean anything, I can stick a garden rake, pick-axe, playing card, almost anything longer than it is wide.
Q: Being that you are in the International Knife Throwing Hall of Fame, do you consider knife throwing for you to be a recreational or a professional activity?
A: I consider myself a professional thrower in the sense that there are only a handful of people in the world that can beat me with a knife/hawk, but for my soul I can only go a few hours without throwing something sharp into something wood. It really is an addiction of sorts. I've been known to jump up and run outside in my underwear with 3 feet of snow on the ground and stick a knife into a target and run back inside yelling, "How cool was that?"
As a professional it irritates me when I am not ranked in the top 10. I took 2 years off due to shoulder problem and dropped from top 10 to something like top 40. Last year I started coming back. I'm currently ranked 16th I think, but I will be in the top 5 before 2011 ends or my arm will fall off.
Q: You are also on the Board of Directors of the IKTHoF, what is your role in the organization?
A: Right now I"m the 2nd in command (I guess you would call it) of the IKTHoF. Dr. Michael Bainton is the owner/founder of it. Together him and I decide who has a sanctioned throw, who helps us with the rules, etc. I spend more money on throws & throwing then I do on any other facet of my life. I try to get to Austin, TX where the IKTHoF is located at least 2 or 3 times a year for 2-3 weeks each time. I've been known to go there 6 times a year...I LOVE TEXAS! :)
There are folks all over the world helping us to do this, but our problem is always money & logistics. It isn't easy to keep 100 alpha males on the same page and aimed in the same direction, but we are trying our best.
Q: Who are the other throwers you admire be they contemporary or from the history books?
A: The greatest knife throwers we know of are Che Che Whitecloud and his father from Salamanca. NY. Harry Houdini was supposedly a very good thrower in his act also. The best I've ever seen is Mike Bainton from Austin, TX. Check out the IKTHoF website and you'll see he has won just about everything he can and he still competes when he wants to. The current World Champion & Gold Cup Champion is 13 yr old Rudd Pickett from Missouri and he did this in 2010. That dual championship was only done once before by 71 yr old Bob Pyle of Brownsboro, TX. Age means nothing in our sport, and sex means less.
Q: Would you or have you ever thrown knives close to and around a person as part of your competitions? How do you feel abut those who do? What do you feel for the "assistant" who stands at the target?
A: We have no competition that involves that in IKTHoF events. That is what we call show business, vaudeville, or silhouette type throwing. I can and have done it and I've taught my wife to actually stand there and catch knives that I've thrown as a target girl. My close friend Todd Abrams is the best in the world at that right now and appears on Top Shot on The History Channel as the throwing expert. He does that and has done it to my daughter...cutting a cucumber in half off her forearm with a thrown knife. I feel the girl might get hurt, but the thrower will NEVER forgive himself and is doing something extremely hard mentally.
By the way last year in a performance inside the walls of The Alamo I let a 10 year old girl throw 10 knives around me and I've got the video to prove it!
Q: How does an official IKTHoF knife throwing competition work, what format does it follow, and how is it scored?
A: We throw 3 knives at a time per distance in the IKTHoF, the same for hawks. In MM events you throw 1 knife, 1 hawk. In what we call IKTHoF or "Conventional" throwing we throw knives & hawks at targets from 5 -6 distances with blade & handle throws. The targets resemble a normal archery target aka bullseye type set up. Points are 5-4-3-2-1 for a total of 300 max. 0-99=novice, 100-199=intermediate, 200-300 is expert.
Q: What distances do you practice throwing from?
A: For my conventional knife throwing, I practice from:
2 meters- 1/2 spin
3 meters- 1 spin
4 meters- 1 1/2 spin
5 meters- 2 spin
6 meters- 2 1/2 spin
7 meters- 3 spin
On good days I will try to throw about 5-800 knives per day.
For my conventional hawk throwing, I practice from:
3 meters- 1 spin
4 meters- 1 1/2 spin
6 meters- 2 spin
7 meters- 2 1/2 spin
9 meters- 3 spin
On good days I will try to throw about 100 of each.
Then I try to add into that at least 1-2 hours of card cutting (explained below) with my MM knives & hawks to keep that sharp as well.
MOUNTAIN MAN THROWING COMPETITION
Q: What differentiates "Mountain Man" type throwing from other types of throwing and what does being a “Mountain Man” mean to you?
A: Mountain Man throwing (MM from now on), is what our records show is the kind of contests that the trappers, fur traders, American Indians, etc. did during rendezvous in the spring as they all came out of the wilderness after long winters and sought each others company, tobacco, booze, money, etc. after all their hard time spent in the winter. They often settled bragging rights of who shot better, who could stick an axe, who did whatever with contests.
We are all fake MM. PERIOD...I doubt that any of us would want or could live as they did! They are my heroes. They lived on their own beholden to no one. They asked nothing of anyone. They were self-governed by nature, fate, and how good they were. I imagine it was an incredibly hard life, but it was an honest life.
We take that spirit and do the same thing. We dress in period clothing (mostly 1860 or older) and make a tree block (slice of non-hardwood tree) on a stand of some kind and throw knives & hawks into playing cards. We do all handle throws and sticking the block is 1 point, cut the card for 2 pts, center cut the card is 3 pts.
FINAL WORDS OF WISDOM
Q: What is your favorite knife story be it personal or overheard?
A: A personal favorite of mine is from 1 night about 6 years ago after the World Championships in Austin. It was very late and we had all drank a "few" beers. 3 or 4 of my friends were trying over & over to make a throw that requires you to stand 30 feet from a target and lay a knife on your palm/forearm point facing you. You then try to make a underhand 1/2 spin and drop it in the target. That distance is usually a overhand 2 1/2 or 3 spin, so it's difficult at best. After watching them all fail for 30 minutes I got up grabbed a random knife, called my target, and with a beer in my other hand hit a dead center bulls eye. I then sat back down and absolutely refused all demands to repeat the shot! LoL Never, ever try to repeat a freak accident...
Q: What advice would you give a beginner of any age who is interested in throwing knives?
A: Find someone like me that teaches for free if you can, find good knives that will last forever, and then throw throw throw throw and never stop throwing no matter what anyone tells you. We call it "The Thunk". The sound of blade sticking into wood is like crack cocaine, but harmless and legal!
I've NEVER been beaten by somebody that practiced LESS than me. Practice is the same in any endeavor - it brings perfection closer.
And never throw into live wood!! 5 knife cuts can let in disease and kill a 200 year old tree. Use pine, cottonwood, palm, or any other softwoods cut into slices like bologna. Boards can work but do not last very long.
Very nice .. interesting .. and gotta love this one ..
"I've NEVER been beaten by somebody that practiced LESS than me."
The IKTHoF North East United States National Championship will be held at Ed's campground Friday, Saturday, and Sunday June 17-19, Father's Day weekend.
631 Chestnut Neck Road (Rte 575)
Port Republic, NJ 08241
Pway south to exit 48, 1/4 mile take right fork onto 575 and it is about
a 1/4 mile on the right side
Chestnut Lake Campground/ NACO park
There is tent/rv camping for free for all comers of the event. It doesn't matter if you throw or not.
Participation is $100, dinner is $35 and is a sit down awesome dinner on Sat. Friday is a meet & greet snack food type thing.
Sunday we usually serve up leftovers of all kinds.
This year Amante P. Marinas Sr. will be in attendance. Mat is an author of over a dozen books on throwing, martial arts, stick fighting, and a zillion other things. He should be signing/selling some of his books while here.
Thanks, but did you notice Luca never even mentioned how purty I are?
Great stuff, thanks Luca and Ed! Great to read about a fellow collector!
Thanks, but did you notice Luca never even mentioned how purty I are?
Steve"Hog"Hanner said:Great stuff, thanks Luca and Ed! Great to read about a fellow collector!
I haven't visited in a while so I thought I might as well give yawl an update. In early June in PA I managed 2 more first places in a National Event (Tomahawk & Mountain) and a second place (knife) as well. And at my own throw I squeaked out a another 2nd place in Mountain Man throwing. So 2 firsts and 2 seconds so far this season. Not to bad for an old fat guy :)
Happy 4th of July to one & all - & God Bless America!